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Varcoe: de Havilland announces aircraft complex west of Calgary

“I think the beginning of what we’re talking about is 1,500 jobs. Our growth is based on how quickly we can get resources.

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Planemaker de Havilland Aircraft of Canada today announced ambitious plans to build a major manufacturing facility and airfield east of Calgary.

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The privately owned company, which moved its headquarters from Toronto to Calgary earlier this year, On Wednesday, we will announce our intention to build the de Havilland Airfield in Wheatland County.

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The expansive complex will be built on 1,500 acres of land approximately 15 kilometers west of Strathmore and just south of the TransCanada Highway.

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The de Havilland Airfield, as the project is called, includes runways, an aircraft assembly facility, a parts manufacturing and distribution center, and maintenance and repair operations.

It also plans to have a general office where the company’s headquarters will be located. This is the de Havilland Fleet Museum, an educational space to train staff and a tribute to the company’s deep roots in the Canadian aviation sector.

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“We have 12 to 15 different facilities, depending on when[by]when you get in, but we are talking about production… distribution centers, engineering offices. All the cash we have,” said the company’s CEO, Brian Chafe, in an interview.

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“I think the beginning of what we’re talking about is 1,500 jobs. Growth in a way depends on how quickly you can get resources.”

The company, formerly operated as Viking Air in the city, has already It refurbishes and upgrades older models of the famous ‘super scooper’ firefighting aircraft (Canadair CL-215 and CL-415) near Calgary Airport and employs approximately 1,000 people in six buildings.

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Pictured is one of the existing de Havilland Aircraft of Canada plants in Calgary.
Pictured is one of the existing de Havilland Aircraft of Canada plants in Calgary. Courtesy de Havilland

In April, we gave the go-ahead to kickstart a new amphibious firefighting manufacturing program. DHC-515 Firefighter. After the European Union countries signed a letter of intent to purchase his 22 new aircraft.

Chafe said investment and construction at De Havilland Field will take place over the next 10 to 15 years as the various manufacturing lines grow. He did not disclose the expected capital cost, but said it would be “easily” in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

de Havilland Construction is expected to begin after the site is rezoned by the county, which could occur in late 2023.

The company said the first building of the complex could be operational by 2025.A press conference on the announcement is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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Prime Minister Jason Kenny said in an interview that the project would revitalize the state’s growing aviation sector.

“This is one of the most important announcements for the Alberta economy in at least a decade,” said Kenny. “This announcement means Alberta will become one of the most important aviation manufacturing hubs in North America.”

de Havilland has expanded its presence in Calgary in recent years as it sought a location to consolidate its various businesses.

In February, Viking Air, Longview Aviation, Pacific Sky Training, de Havilland Canada operates under its operating brand, de Havilland Aircraft of Canada. The company is owned by Westerkirk Capital, owned by billionaire Sherry Brideson.

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About three years ago, Longview Aviation acquired the De Havilland Dash 8-400 manufacturing program from Bombardier. We had already decided to sell our Downsview factory in Toronto.

The Calgary area had many factors in making it home to the new aircraft manufacturing complex, including a low cost of living, a young workforce, and affordable housing prices.

“We had to have a new home. What we’re trying to create here, we can’t really create something like that in GTA, and it’s not economical at the moment.

“We thought it would be a great area to expand our existing footprint. The base and heartbeat would be here in Alberta.”

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The company has three aircraft lines that it is considering building at de Havilland Airfield. The DHC-515 is already moving forward, and the company plans to start cutting fire plane metal at its existing Calgary operations within the next six months.

de Havilland It also builds the DHC-6 Twin Otter airplane and the Dash 8-400 airliner. Both productions were suspended at the start of the 2020 pandemic.

Chaife said the company is working to restart production of the remaining two planes. Twin Otter reviews are underway, and a “decision is imminent,” and he could be in the iconic utility aircraft within three to six months.

Once that’s done, it will take about a year to complete the review of the Dash 8, a turboprop that can accommodate up to 90 passengers.

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“I can assure you that our goals and mission have given me to return to producing all three of these platforms and possibly some derivatives of others,” he added.

“They are all driven by the customers who come to us.”

The state said it did not offer incentives to companies to build new complexes.

Wheatland County Reeve Amber Link said the aviation center site is agricultural land, but the municipality expected it would be needed for industrial or commercial purposes as part of its long-term plans.

She said the company will be eligible for a local incentive program already in place, which provides a 40% exemption from local government property taxes for up to three years on major capital investments.

“This is definitely a big deal, not just for Wheatland County, but for Alberta,” Link said of Wednesday’s announcement.

“I’m sitting here smiling and listening… It’s so nice to see them pick our county.”

Chris Varcoe is a columnist for the Calgary Herald.

Cvarcoe@postmedia.com

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Varcoe: de Havilland announces aircraft complex west of Calgary

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